The Ellington Lab is a biotechnology lab that engineers nucleic acids and proteins for biomedical and other applications. Nucleic acid biosensors (aptamers, ribozymes) and nucleic acid circuits (DNA computers) are being harnessed to diagnostic applications, especially for point-of-care diagnostics in resource-poor settings and for facile tumor detection. With our collaborators, we are developing analytical methods that apply to devices as simple as dipsticks and as complex as CMOS. Our protein engineering efforts focus on platform technologies for engineering and evolving enzymes involved in replication, transcription, and translation, and there are long-term efforts to expand the genetic code with nucleobase amino acids so that proteins can more readily talk back to DNA and RNA. In collaboration with George Georgiou we adapt protein engineering techniques to generating therapeutic antibodies and immunoprofiling via NextGen sequencing and proteomics. The two arms of the lab come together in attempts to develop novel operating systems for organisms based on the programmability of nucleic acid conformers. This has led to interesting applications in which decisions at the nanoscale are observed as macroscale patterns, horizontal transfer has been engineered, and synthetic biology has been reduced to an engineering discipline rather than a buzzword.
Dr. Ellington is the PI or co-PI for three Freshman Research Initiative streams at UT Austin: Aptamer (led by Dr. Gwen Stovall), DIY Diagnostics (led by Dr. Tim Riedel), and Practical Molecular Sensors (led by Dr. Pedro Metola).
The lab also supports the LASA iGEM team.